Italian Baked Chicken

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The flavors of the Mediterranean shine in this versatile, nourishing Baked Italian Chicken

Italian Baked Chicken close up view

That little black dress in my closet is classic, but what I really love about it is how versatile it is. Work dinner? Add pearls. Night out? Add some bling. Not sure how dressy or casual an event is? No problem. It’s always a good choice. This Italian Baked Chicken is the same way. It can be fancy, casual, or in between.

Besides the versatility, it is a one-pot wonder that is healthy. Amazing! No pile of pots and pans to wash and dry after you make it. The warm Mediterranean flavors of tomatoes, garlic, lemon, and olives provide a bright landscape for the main event: the chicken breast.

While not necessarily a traditional Italian dish, Baked Italian Chicken definitely checks the boxes for Italian cuisine. Especially when served alongside a nice risotto or even just some light angel hair pasta.

If you’re craving Italian but don’t want to sacrifice calories, this is the dish for you. Healthy fats, lean protein, and a serving of veggies all combine to create a healthy, gluten-free main dish.

Just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean it’s bland. The olives and tomatoes especially provide a punch of flavor, and the herbs used complement the chicken and veggies just right. Flavor in every bite!

More on Smoked Paprika

Smoked Paprika: what’s its deal? This recipe calls for smoked paprika, which you may or may not have in your pantry. Plain (or sometimes called sweet paprika) is made with chili peppers, roasted and ground. Smoked paprika merely contains chili peppers that have been smoked, imbuing that hearty flavor into the ground spice. In this dish, regular paprika can be substituted for the smoked – it just has a lighter profile.

Ingredients

  • 6 Chicken breasts
  • 3 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt
  • ½ tsp ground Black pepper
  • 2 cloves Garlic crushed
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp Fresh Thyme Leaves
  • 1 small Red onion finely sliced
  • 1 cup Cherry Tomatoes halved
  • ½ cup Kalamata Olives optional
  • 1 small bunch Italian Parsley chopped
  • 1 small bunch of Basil chopped
Italian Baked Chicken ingredients top view

Preparation Steps

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400F. Then take a sharp knife and slice the chicken breasts lengthways down the center of the breast, so that you can open it up like a butterfly. This is a great way to make it thin.

Italian Baked Chicken steps top shot

Step 2: Place the chicken into a bowl with olive oil, smoked paprika, oregano, salt, pepper,  garlic, lemon juice, and thyme leaves. Toss it with two spoons to coat the chicken all over.

Italian Baked Chicken steps top shot

Step 3: Toss the sliced red onion into a baking dish and then lay in the chicken breasts along with the tomatoes and olives scattered on top.

Italian Baked Chicken steps top shot

Step 4: Cover the dish tightly with foil and then bake for 10 minutes covered and then 8 minutes with the foil off. Remember that your chicken might be slightly thinner or thicker as well as your oven running a little hotter or colder. So watch the chicken so that you don’t overcook it.

Italian Baked Chicken steps top shot

Step 5: Take the chicken out and let it rest for a few minutes, then top with the parsley and basil before serving.

Italian Baked Chicken steps top shot

Top Tips For a Perfect Italian Baked Chicken

  • Chicken Breasts: make sure they are of even thickness. Doing so will result in chicken that finishes cooking at the same time, thereby avoiding drying out. Either trim to even thickness or use a meat mallet to pound them.
  • Foil tenting: so important, again for the sake of the chicken! Since you’re using skinless chicken, it can dry out very easily. The tight foil wrap helps retain any moisture. Don’t skip this step!
  • Fresh herbs are best. If it’s the dead of winter or you don’t have a green enough thumb for a kitchen garden, head to the produce section of your grocery store, where they usually carry small packets of fresh herbs year-round. Of course, if you only have dried herbs, just use about half of the measurements called for in the recipe above.
  • Rest: just like a big, heavy lasagna, this dish needs to sit a few minutes after taking it out of the oven. You can keep it covered so it doesn’t cool off too much, but the rest outside of the oven allows the chicken texture to firm up and the flavors to continue to meld. The extra few minutes is worth it!
Italian Baked Chicken featured image top shot

FAQs

Why is my chicken dry?

See above for tips and tricks-the foil covering is super important for the first portion of bake time! You also may need to reduce baking time if your oven runs hot. At the very least, start checking for doneness at around 4-5 minutes during the 8-minute uncovered bake time.

What can I substitute for the olives?

If olives are not your thing, you can either dice up some bell pepper (green, yellow, red for maximum color impact) or use some jarred roasted bell pepper. You won’t have the same salty tang, but the texture will be similar.

What kind of baking pan should I use?

Glass or ceramic is preferable. Because metal can react with anything acidic, like the tomatoes and lemon juice in this recipe, you want to avoid metal pans if possible. If that’s all you have, it’s fine, but it may affect the taste slightly.

Italian Baked Chicken close up view

Serving Suggestions

Like I said at the outset, this dish can go a number of ways. My favorite way to serve this chicken is with an easy pasta like angel hair tossed with a little olive oil, butter, and parmesan. If you want something heartier, mashed potatoes or even gnocchi would be good too. Even just a big hunk of crusty bread or focaccia is delicious next to the bright flavors of the vegetables and seasonings. For a gluten-free side, you can pair it with polenta or grits.

How to Store

You can assemble everything through step two, toss it in a gallon resealable bag and refrigerate for up to 12 hours – this additional marinade time actually intensifies the flavors. Additionally, you can chop the veggies ahead of time and refrigerate as well (just store the sliced onion separately so its flavor doesn’t take over). Once you’re ready to bake, assemble and cover with foil as instructed. Any leftovers keep well in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. Freezing is not recommended for Baked Italian Chicken.

Italian Baked Chicken close up view
Italian Baked Chicken close up view

Italian Baked Chicken

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 6 Chicken breasts
  • 3 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt
  • ½ tsp ground Black pepper
  • 2 cloves Garlic crushed
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp Fresh Thyme Leaves
  • 1 small Red onion finely sliced
  • 1 cup Cherry Tomatoes halved
  • ½ cup Kalamata Olives optional
  • 1 small bunch Italian Parsley chopped
  • 1 small bunch of Basil chopped

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 400F. Then take a sharp knife and slice the chicken breasts lengthways down the center of the breast, so that you can open it up like a butterfly. This is a great way to make it thin.
  • Place the chicken into a bowl with the olive oil, smoked paprika, oregano, salt, pepper,  garlic, lemon juice, and thyme leaves. Toss it with two spoons to coat the chicken all over.
  • Toss the sliced red onion into a baking dish and then lay in the chicken breasts along with the tomatoes and olives scattered on top.
  • Cover the dish tightly with foil and then bake for 10 minutes covered and then 8 minutes with the foil off. Remember that your chicken might be slightly thinner or thicker as well as your oven running a little hotter or colder. So watch the chicken so that you don’t overcook it.
  • Take the chicken out and let it rest for a few minutes, then top with the parsley and basil before serving.
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